Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era (1890-1953)


The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era, 1890-1953

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The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era, 1890-1953 book is available through Amazon or through

This is a companion book to The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook! In the beginning stages of writing that book, my intent was to write a “top 100 songs of all time” book. As I quickly discovered, most lists proclaiming to highlight “the best of all time” seem to be under the impression that music didn’t exist prior to 1950. I decided to retool my project to focus on the rock era and put together another book focused on the “forgotten years.”

This is the result. As always with DMDB lists, the rankings are determined by aggregating multiple best-of lists and factoring in songs’ sales, chart stats, and awards. It should be noted that in the pre-rock era there were often multiple versions of a song. In fact, some best-of lists did not list a specific version. When the latter occurred, all versions of a song were given points. Once all points were compiled, only the top version of a song was included in this list.

1. Bing Crosby “White Christmas” (1942)
2. Judy Garland “Over the Rainbow” (1939)
3. Fre Astaire “Night and Day” (1932)
4. Arthur Collins with Byron Harlan “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911)
5. Glenn Miller “In the Mood” (1939)
6. Artie Shaw “Stardust” (1941)
7. Fred Astaire “Cheek to Cheek” (1935)
8. Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong “St. Louis Blues” (1925)
9. Gene Austin “My Blue Heaven” (1927)
10. Artie Shaw “Begin the Beguine” (1938)

11. American Quartet “Over There” (1917)
12. Paul Whiteman “Whispering” (1920)
13. Al Jolson “Swanee” (1920)
14. Al Jolson “April Showers” (1922)
15. Ethel Waters “Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All the Time)” (1933)
16. Billy Murray “You’re a Grand Old Flag (aka “The Grand Old Rag”)” (1906)
17. Peerless Quartet “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (1911)
18. Tommy Dorsey with Jack Leonard “All the Things You Are” (1939)
19. Fred Astaire “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936)
20. Haydn Quartet “Sweet Adeline (You’re the Flower of My Heart)” (1904)

21. Gene Autry “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)
22. Patti Page “Tennessee Waltz” (1950)
23. Bing Crosby “Pennies from Heaven” (1936)
24. The Harmonicats “Peg O’ My Heart” (1947)
25. Dooley Wilson “As Time Goes By” (1942)
26. The Mills Brothers “Paper Doll” (1942)
27. Paul Robeson “Ol’ Man River” (1928)
28. Al Jolson “You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)” (1913)
29. Billy Murray with the Haydn Quartet “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (1908)
30. Coleman Hawkins “Body and Soul” (1940)

31. American Quartet “Moonlight Bay” (1912)
32. Ben Selvin “Dardanella” (1920)
33. Billy Murray “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis” (1904)
34. Billy Murray “Give My Regards to Broadway” (1905)
35. Jo Stafford “You Belong to Me” (1952)
36. Billy Murray with Haydn Quartet “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1910)
37. Thomas “Fats” Waller “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (1929)
38. The Weavers “Goodnight Irene” (1950)
39. Marion Harris “Tea for Two” (1925)
40. Ella Ftizgerald with Chick Webb “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” (1938)

41. Duke Ellington “Mood Indigo” (1931)
42. Vernon Dalhart “The Prisoner’s Song” (1925)
43. Vaughn Monroe “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)” (1949)
44. Haydn Quartet “In the Good Old Summertime” (1903)
45. Les Brown with Doris Day “Sentimental Journey” (1945)
46. Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1940)
47. Francis Craig with Bob Lamm “Near You” (1947)
48. Cliff Edwards I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (1928)
49. Harry MacDonough with Miss Walton “Shine on, Harvest Moon” (1909)
50. Byron Harlan “School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)” (1907)

51. Glenn Miller “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1941)
52. Nat “King” Cole “The Christmas Song” (1946)
53. Isham Jones “It Had to Be You” (1924)
54. Cliff Edwards “When You Wish Upon a Star” (1940)
55. Ben Selvin “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1930)
56. Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (1933)
57. Original Dixieland Jazz Band “Tiger Rag” (1918)
58. Kate Smith “God Bless America” (1939)
59. Les Paul with Mary Ford “How High the Moon” (1951)
60. Glen Gray with Kenny Sargent “Blue Moon” (1935)

61. Red Nichols “I Got Rhythm” (1930)
62. Nat “King” Cole “Mona Lisa” (1950)
63. Dinah Shore & Her Harper Valley Boys “Buttons and Bows” (1948)
64. Billy Murray “Yankee Doodle Boy” (1905)
65. Henry Burr with Albert Campbell “Till We Meet Again” (1919)
66. Bing Crosby “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944)
67. Chauncey Olcott “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” (1913)
68. Arthur Collins “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” (1902)
69. John McCormack “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” (1915)
70. George Olsen with Fran Frey, Bob Rice, & Edward Joye “Always” (1926)

71. Larry Clinton with Bea Wain “Deep Purple” (1939)
72. The Ink Spots “The Gypsy” (1946)
73. Billie Holiday “Strange Fruit” (1939)
74. Al Jolson “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” (1918)
75. Byron Harlan “My Gal Sal” (1907)
76. Bing Crosby “Swinging on a Star” (1944)
77. Al Jolson “Sonny Boy” (1928)
78. Byron Harlan “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” (1906)
79. Van & Schenck “Ain’t We Got Fun?” (1921)
80. Harry James with Helen Forrest “I’ve Heard That Song Before” (1943)

81. Artie Shaw “Frenesi” (1940)
82. American Quartet with Billy Murray “Casey Jones” (1910)
83. Ted Lewis “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (1930)
84. Little Jack Little “I’m in the Mood for Love” (1935)
85. Gertrude Lawrence “Someone to Watch Over Me” (1927)
86. Pee Wee Hunt “Twelfth Street Rag” (1948)
87. Marion Harris “After You’ve Gone” (1919)
88. Perry Como “Some Enchanted Evening” (1949)
89. Judy Garland with Gene Kelly “For Me and My Gal” (1942)
90. Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” (1918)

91. Gene Austin “My Melancholy Baby” (1928)
92. Woody Herman “Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me)” (1941)
93. Henry Burr “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” (1909)
94. Bing Crosby “Silent Night” (1935)
95. Haydn Quartet “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet” (1909)
96. Billy Murray “In My Merry Oldsmobile” (1905)
97. Harry MacDonough “Down by the Old Mill Stream” (1911)
98. Ben Selvin “Blue Skies” (1927)
99. Rudy Vallee “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (1932)
100. Duke Ellington “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941)

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Originally posted 6/23/2012. Last updated 4/3/2021.

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